Op-Ed: Culver City Needs a Progressive, Compassionate Council and School Board

0

…And why it’s troubling a school board candidate has courted the support from Culver City’s most outspoken racist.

Culver City folks are very, very preoccupied with how long you’ve lived in the city. They want to know if you went to CCHS. They want to know if your blood runs Centaur blue. Rah rah! 

It’s almost comical how many people who go up to the dais in city hall and announce how long they’ve lived here. My husband Jim Province, who’s lived here (since you asked) 18 years, was the first to point this out to our friends and me. 

I’ve long made it a practice to avoid local FB groups because the toxicity and arrogance are exhausting. (My CC page is the exception, of course.) However, on one thread a particularly odious woman with a very well-known last name pointedly commented that she’s “lived here 35 years and” she’d “never worked with” me and who was I? Forget that we’re in vastly different businesses, she clearly didn’t care what I did for a living. Her message was clear: because she’s lived in Culver City that many years her opinions have more value than mine. (For the record, I’ve lived here much longer than her.)

Here’s how I look at it: having lived in a place for a long time definitely gives you perspective and experience, which may inform your choices which you are, of course, (even encouraged) to share. But the big, big caveat here is that my opinion holds no more weight than the family who moved in across the street last year. 

The comments and lamentations on the ardent and ferocious “support” pages all have roots in the — sorry-to-say — small and mono-focal notion that Culver City “has changed.” Jesus Christ, I hope it’s changed. 

Why have the Culver City historians — with the exception of the lovely, kind, and well-informed John Kent — ignored that Culver City was a Sundown Town? Why have they ignored that Harry Culver planned for this city to be an “exclusive” all-white community? Why did it take so long for someone to find and publicly post the housing contract which “obligated” the buyer to only sell to white people? 

It doesn’t matter if they’ve moved to Thousand Oaks, Oregon, Las Vegas, etc. their comments are always the same — Tito’s Tacos is still delicious, but man, it’s not the Culver City I grew up in. Seriously, search the CC FB groups for variations on that statement and you’ll find pages and pages of it.  Really? You long for the days when misogyny was the norm, and bullying and sexual harassment were deeply suppressed, and making assumptions based on skin color was chalked up to “just the way things” were?  I am not just throwing that sentence out there. This is the way it was, in Culver City, at Culver City Junior and Senior High. I was there (but the aforementioned odious woman was not).  

I was stunned, seriously stunned by the vitriol I saw on a FB group I inadvertently (and deeply regret) visiting. So much sneering for Meghan Sahli-Wells, the only light on the City Council in its previous incarnation.  Before you make any assumptions, we are not personal friends and have had plenty of opportunities to cultivate a friendship; we are just acquainted. 

If those nasty name-calling commenters knew how dedicated she is … well, they probably wouldn’t care, but I say, anyway, I have many, many times witnessed her amazing restraint, patience, and thoughtfulness. And no, I’m not referring to the issue of parking on Farragut. 

I greatly admire Meghan’s willingness to be so holistically engaged in the needs of Culver City residents. Yes, she’s very progressive and that has given pause to centrists and the republicans-masquerading-as-dems. Granted, we share the same values,  but if anyone was truly going to look at her tenure objectively, there’s no denying what her priorities always are: the well-being and good of Culver City. 

To me, I look at it like she sat on a council in which she was (to me) the only one with genuine compassion, and, as I mentioned earlier, thoughtfulness. She never postured or condescended as some of her colleagues did. Agree or not with her, she never made snap decisions. She carefully considered all angles. This did not/does not make her popular with those who want to make changes right now. And honestly, there are many in CC who are impatient for their interests to be moved to the next step. 

I’m getting closer to my intention here, I promise. There have been previous and very separate incidents in which Dr. Kelly Kent was also not appreciated. FTR, we are personal friends. You know my bias, but it was a bias that was developed since she first announced a run for the school board, which she thankfully and mercifully (and deservedly) won. She is wicked smart and kind, and like Meghan, very thoughtful in any assessment she makes. If it’s not obvious, I’m voting for Kelly.

Because of this, I’m going to take a closer look at the candidates running for the school board, a position not quite as high-profile or sexy as City Council, but also of great importance. Culver City Schools are, in some cases, the sole reason to move into this community, with its unreachable-to-most house prices. That may sound mercenarily economical, but I’d wager the school system has brought as many to Culver as Amazon, Google and Apple are/were. 

We’re a two-generation CC education household. I did well, but my son really thrived. Yes, he’s way smarter than me, but it is a living testament to the power of a very solid, highly recommended education. 

Now on to what you came here for.

Culver City Council

Despite the bashing of the current Culver City Council, it’s been a fantastic group and I can honestly say it’s been a long time since I could say — as I can here — that I have no regrets for my strong support of Alex Fisch and Daniel Lee. Why the latter has been targeted is surprising since he’s just great and unsurprising because Culver City has become shockingly divisive. For years, if not decades, Culver City was resting on its “moderate” laurels, which as I became an adult I realized were closer to moderate republicans rather than the democrats most candidates purported themselves to be. (I guess hoorah for Goran Eriksson for admitting [?] he is a republican)

Of course, thanks to Facebook, in the last decade, more and more people have been voicing their opinions, their dissent, and a vocal conservative faction emerged — so much so it encouraged the daughter of one of CCHS’s beloved coaches to start a heretofore absent Culver City Republicans. I, for one, am very pleased with this. You let your conservative flag fly, girl. It’s definitely time for those conservative denizens of CC who have been hiding under the guise of being “socially progressive, but fiscally conservative” (“But I’m a democrat, too,” former Councilmember Jeff Cooper once said to me — in order to gain my support/allow his lawn sign—when he was still speaking to us (He cannot even muster the tiniest of social graces, nary a nod of the head when he’s politely greeted with a “hello.”).

It’s extremely disingenuous for those running for City Council or the school board to hide or “put aside” their political leanings because it’s not a political position. Hello, when you’re deciding and voting on the quality of life and safety in the city in which we live and pay taxes, then it damn well has political implications.

It’s obvious (or will be shortly) that I’m extremely liberal and have taken umbrage with the Culver City-zens who always claim to identify as democrats but I’ve always thought of them as (and described them as such in writing) as “faux democrats.” On the other hand, you have candidates (you know who you are) who will take ANYONE’s support in a means-justifies-the-end/morality-has-gone-out-the-window way.

I will suggest and gently recommend candidates I feel are genuinely and truly progressive, whose interests are not xenophobic, fear-based, or what I’m going to call perception-based. By the latter, I mean people who vote and heil for people and causes, low-information folks whose information medium is Fox News. I wrote an extensive piece about Donald Trump and how I need to get over the fact that his base is completely voting against their interests. Why? Because even though he will do nothing for their personal economy (he only cares about himself and the wealthiest), their health (he’s made clear motions to sever healthcare, and never providing the plan he touts he has), or their well-being. What does that leave? (Yes, I’ll say it: racism)  

Anyway, moving away from that rabbit hole: 

I am looking at candidates who are looking at the city that Culver City is right now, what it’s become. Thanks to the draw of Apple, Google, Amazon, and the ubiquitous entertainment businesses, more young and successful families are moving here. They are people who are informed voters, who aren’t going to vote for names on signs on their neighbors’ lawns. 

Speaking of those neighbors’ lawns, you might think you see signs of solidarity, a grouping that will include Eriksson, Albert Vera, Heather Wollin, Defend the Police, Ann Alaire, and Scott Zeidman (much more on the latter later). If it’s not obvious, it is the much more conservative slate, period. 

I’ve said it before when he ran for office and I’ll say it now — I think Albert Vera is a tenacious, kind, motivated, and ambitious man, but I feel he is a bit conservative for me (visit my blog for examples from previous campaigns) 

FTR,  Erikkson is way too conservative (I’m not going to get into the is he a republican, and if not why was he paid $120 for lunch to support a Republican candidate, etc). Zeidman is an entirely different concern (again, more on that later, and he’s running for school board, which has phenomenal candidates that, in my progressive opinion, render him irrelevant). 

Here’s who I suggest and recommend for City Council, in order of preference, based on my own research and input from one of my favorite people in the entire world, my life-long friend Disa Lindgren. 

  1. Yasmine-Imani McMorrin: The bottom line? Culver City needs her. Culver City would be lucky to have her. She’s an excellent candidate, a progressive, single mum who is an attorney, albeit not a currently practicing one. She’s smart, skillful, and diplomatic. She’s the real deal and doesn’t equivocate. To quote Disa, “Her work is in education/equity + inclusion + diversity” https://www.mcmorrinforculvercity.com/
  1. Freddy Puza is another person who Culver City so needs now. His day job is in Community Relations at Loyola Marymount University, so he’s got evident and strong people skills. He’s done a great deal of anti-racist work and a renter who is part of Protect Culver City Renters. Community-driven, he is a very conscientious, hard worker who could bring all of these skills and knowledge to the dais. https://www.freddypuza.com/
  1. Darrel Menthe: He may not be as progressive as McMorrin, Puza (or I), but he’s a policy wonk, whose strength is housing (and this is an area Culver City desperately needs expertise in). Karen Bass has endorsed him. And, frankly, he’s a much, much better alternative than anyone else running. https://mentheforculvercity.com

Culver City School Board

  1. Kelly Kent: If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written about the school board in the last few years, you’ll know how strongly and fiercely I support Kelly Kent. She is an incumbent Culver City cannot afford to let go. She’s extremely dedicated to the schools, students and works tirelessly, despite efforts of a few who have tried to discredit her. I continue to be stunned that anyone wouldn’t appreciate everything she’s done for the board and elevating it. She is a strong progressive, incredibly smart and will fight for the students. This mother-of-two is extremely committed to anti-racism. She is a progressive, strong voice who needs to be heard and re-elected. https://www.kellykent.com/
  2. Paula Amezola: It makes me smile to think we could soon have a school board with Kelly and Paula. Paula is terrific, principled and progressive. She supports the needs of English Language Learners and understands that we have a community in Culver City who struggles financially and aren’t getting the support needed to do well in life and school. This kind of support is imperative in early education because it sets a foundation for each subsequent year. Read her personal story, too. http://www.paula4ccusd.com/

When you have two candidates who are so far superior to anyone else running, you’ll act against your interest if you don’t vote for them; this is not a best-of-the-group situation, they are truly the kind of people we want on the board.

No, just no

Scott Zeidman: You may notice that I’ve not really listed reasons as to why you shouldn’t vote for other candidates, for council or school board, with the exception of their politics being too conservative for me. I’d rather either barely mention or not mention at all anyone who isn’t a preferred candidate. 

However, I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you why I’m not going to vote for Scott Zeidman and you shouldn’t, either. 

For the record, I am totally, absolutely biased where he is concerned. I have no problem with being utterly transparent.

Scott Zeidman has courted the support of Culver City’s most outspoken racist

I’m posting this because Bassilian is going all in supporting school board candidate Scott Zeidman, who is quite pleased with the attention. THAT alone is enough to skip past Zeidman’s name.Why Ron Basillian shouldn’t be leading anything, let alone a 2020 Culver City candidate forum and why his support of school board candidate Scott Zeidman is extremely problematic:

But let’s start with the fact of why you absolutely shouldn’t vote for him, JUST this should be signal: this Protect Culver City Candidate Panel. It’s a miserable hour to sit through, but you get the absolute “right there” why not to vote for him in 1:24 in: the forum is helmed by xenophobic, racist, militant Ron Bassilian, who says he and Zeidman have been speaking “privately” and that he encouraged him to run. There’s really not a lot to unpack there. And yes, it’s super creepy how sycophantic Zeidman is towards Bassilian. I know Zeidman will accept the support of anyone who’ll offer it, but Bassilian’s is notable. Instead of distancing himself as any empathetic person would, he has aligned himself. Still, that’s not too much of a surprise. 

Then, there is this from Culver City Patch, which features comments from David Mielke, then-president of the Culver City Federation of Teachers (and a favorite teacher of our son, who took Mielke’s Psychology/Sociology course and really came away from it with information he still references). 

It also clearly presents Zeidman as anti-union (the quote was given to the fascistic Front Page Online), which is the crux of the issue, in terms of him serving on the school board for a district that very much needs unions. 

I figure if a beloved teacher like Mielke observed and preserved this by actually writing about it in 2011 when Zeidman had a failed bid, it should not be ignored:

“As the president of the Culver City Federation of Teachers, I was surprised and disappointed to read some of the anti-union statements attributed to school board member and current candidate. In speaking of endorsements (we have endorsed and),  Mr. Zeidman said, “give me a union that is going to negotiate for more money and more benefits and I am on the other side.  I don’t want it.  I want the teachers. I don’t want the union.  There is a huge difference.”

It continues, Now it is true that some of us have been critical of Mr. Zeidman’s management of board meetings.  As president, he has presided over a board that has set new lows for public discourse.  Board members have been allowed to insult community members on a regular basis.  No one stepped in to stop a board member from repeatedly calling me a “liar” despite board policies mandating civil discourse.  More recently, no one intervened when a board member insulted candidate Robert Zirgulis by calling him a “moron” and “the village idiot.” 

There were also accusations of voter manipulation, too

Note: In the Bassilian-led “Protect Culver City Candidates” forum, Zeidman actually shares a Zoom screen with Robert Zirgulis, a Trump apologist, btw.

For more, see this article from Culver City Catalyst

My bias (and SO not in a K-Pop good way):

  • I don’t like Scott Zeidman. 
  • I don’t like his nebulous politics. 
  • I don’t like the Hummer he used (?) to park in two spaces behind what used to be Winchell’s Donuts when his son was in Tae Kwon Do. 
  • I don’t like that when my husband Jim Province and I were very new to this local government stuff, we stupidly said uh, sure we’d support him, not really knowing much about who he truly is (thinking, it’s okay, we’ll say it so he’ll go away and just vote for someone else), only to find OUR NAMES listed as supporters on one of his fliers. 
  • I don’t like how he hounds you as he tries to get you to support him. Honestly, our experience with him was just embarrassing. He followed us, fake smiled and pushed. Seriously, (not that I had a lot of experience with this) but he was like a guy at a club that you just can’t shake. I especially don’t like his revisionist history regarding an incident that happened right in front of me. 

And now, this:

But most recently, I don’t like that when I sent an email out to 10 of my neighbors who I know well (enough to go out to dinner with, when everyone was doing such things), in which I said I found Zeidman insidious, a faux democrat, and willing to say anything to get support from voters. I actually did feel like that at that moment. Needless to say, his reaction (keep reading) made it much, much worse. Worse because I was determined to not get involved with local politics in any, but because of what you’re about to read, it was time for *me* to go all in. 

I don’t like even though I asked in the email that it not name me if it was to be forwarded, not because I don’t want to happily share everything I think (clearly I do), but because I actually didn’t want to have to share (with actual friends) what I find most unlikeable about him (and no, I’m not going to tell you exactly why, just know that it was shockingly, shockingly revisionist).  

Alas, one of my neighbors, for whatever reason, thought it would be fun to send to Zeidman. With my name on it. 

Zeidman then took the opportunity to post on his Facebook campaign page, phrases from it, (not the entire email, of course which might give someone pause), refer to me as “N—“ and other snarky “revealing” things (like that I went to Culver High). 

As with the reaction of any narcissist, he reveled in the “support” he received in the comments, which were directed toward me. 

Zeidman clearly thought he was clever in posting something that he thought would embarrass me because I was hiding from the fact that I wrote it. Dude, I wrote it, don’t regret it and wished I’d been stronger in my verbiage in it. Me, Nadine Mendoza, CCHS grad. 

I really do hope you lose again, Scott. Not because you were a dick to me (that would be irrelevant if you were any kind of genuinely progressive and compassionate candidate), but because in your effort to align yourself with anyone who’ll support you, you chose a racist hate-monger, Ron Bassilian. You also participated—in wholly your own interests—in attempts to discredit a school board member, Kelly Kent, who is everything you are not. 

 

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.